Protecting newspaper content — You either do it, or you don’t

As with most things, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun find themselves at opposite ends of how to protect a newspaper’s content.

As revealed in this odd and self-serving navel-gazing piece, the Las Vegas Sun’s strategy for content protection is for all practical purposes no strategy at all. A Sun editor or secretary writes a nice "please stop" letter when it stumbles upon a content stealer, but it’s done purely on a hit-and-miss basis, and rarely — if ever — does the Sun follow through with suit.

In the long run, that business "strategy" will get the Sun and any other newspaper foolish enough to think similarly, exactly what they deserve — a ticket to irrelevancy in the sea of Internet information and eventually an "Out of Business" sign.

I could add a few comments about the Sun’s perfect track record for bad business decisions, but saving journalism is too important to let my point get lost in the usual Sun competitive BS.

That point is this: If newspapers want to control their own destiny they must protect their content from theft. It can’t be hit and miss. It must be effective and hard-nosed, using the Constitutional power of copyright law.

In this Internet environment, "please stop" letters don’t work. Nor, as this Sun reporter naively argues, does it benefit the news enterprise through a patchwork of friendly links that allegedly enhance traffic and then mysteriously increases revenue to a website. Any newspaper that seriously adopts that as a business strategy hasn’t done the math.

Since we’ve gotten tough with content stealers by using a company called Righthaven, which has developed software to effectively identify and sue copyright infringers, we’ve seen no erosion in revenue or traffic to our website. And, even if we did, the loss of the Review-Journal’s unique content, which drives our franchise in both print and the web, would far outweigh the benefit of rewarding a content thief with a link.

So, some newspapers (and I hope it isn’t many) will go the way of the Dodo if they continue to deal with this problem by crossing their fingers and hoping that unrestrained stealing of their content will have no bad effect on their long-term viability. As for me and my newspaper company, we choose sustainability by aggressively protecting our content.

That’s a real strategy likely to sustain a news organization. Why? Because no matter what technology may bring to the news business, it’s compelling and unique content — let me repeat that: "compelling and unique content" — that’s the magic ingredient. Always has been, always will be.

My newspaper does this every day, 24-7. We do it in print, audio and video. We do it with breaking news, sports news, prep sports, community news, business, features, etc. If it moves in Las Vegas and Nevada, we’re there. That’s why we remain the No. 1 news outlet in Las Vegas, the state and the region — both before the Internet and after. Even in this difficult recession — in which television stations and newspapers like the Sun have gutted their newsrooms — we’ve maintained our news resources, knowing that our lifeblood is the content we deliver to our customers.

Not for the customers and readers of content thieves. For the customers and readers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

So, I’m asking you nicely once again — don’t steal our content. Or, I promise you, you will meet my little friend called Righthaven.


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